B.C. government offers new e-bike rebate program, experts warn of using safe bikes and batteries

The dangers of rechargeable batteries are sparking another warning from first responders after a recent fire involving batteries was started in an apartment on the Downtown Eastside.

Crews were called to three separate fires at SROs in the neighbourhood on Thursday.

One fire was at East Hastings and Columbia Streets, the second at West Pender and Hamilton Streets and the third at Abbott and Water Streets, according to Vancouver Fire Assistant Chief Matthew Trudeau.

“Crews were able to help with the final extinguishment of it but did encounter a number of batteries. The source of the fire was a rechargeable battery that was either for an e-bike or an e-scooter,” Trudeau said.

“Half of the fire fatalities of last year were directly associated with rechargeable batteries.”

While crews say the fires did lead to serious burns in at least one call, no word if that was to any occupants or the unit itself.

This comes just as the B.C. government announces the new BC Electric Bike Rebate Program which allows residents to get up to $1,400 off the purchase of an e-bike based on income.

According to the website, you’ll need to provide a statement of income from last year’s taxes, get approved, buy a bike that costs at least $2,000 and submit your receipts to claim the rebate.

The website also warns people not to use aftermarket, low-cost, counterfeit or refurbished e-bike batteries and to only charge your e-bike battery with the charger provided by the manufacturer.

Local bike shop owner Simon Coutts says the site does not yet specify which retailers will be eligible and says bikes and batteries that lack Canadian certifications can be a recipe for disaster.

“If something really happens where it catches fire or they have a big issue, then yeah it’s buyer beware,” Coutts warns.

He says, you just have to look at the craze of the “hoverboards” from a few years ago and how that turned out.

“Hoverboards are not actually sold. You can’t find them anymore. The reason why is because they came, they flooded the market, and then they had lots of issues,” Coutts shared.

“They’re very dangerous. People left them charging overnight and things happen.”

Coutts thinks the program won’t drastically increase demand for e-bikes but says there is local appetite for people to get an e-bike as an alternate to driving for their daily commute.

“I think it would be more for a commuter. Someone who wants an alternate mode of transportation instead of taking their car to work,” Coutts explained.

“[They] don’t have to pay for gas, don’t have to wait in traffic. They can just take the bike lanes to work and get there. I’ve got lots of clients already doing it.”

The program will open up June 1.

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